When you have a job that requires small, precise cuts, a chop saw is often the ideal cutting device. These precision saws offer you the ability to make accurate right angle cuts in a variety of materials such as lumber, decking, molding, trim, aluminum, and some metals.
Understanding how to use a chop saw can be easily learned with a little guidance and some confidence in your abilities. These steps will walk you through the process of cutting with a chop saw safely.
A chop saw is the perfect tool to make fast, accurate cuts. While it is limited in the angle of cutting it can do, and also limited in the size of material it can cut, it is the best tool to use for cutting long, thin boards, pipe, or metal.
Lets start by reviewing what a chop saw is (and what it isn't).
It is important that you understand how to use a chop saw and the differences in it compared to a miter saw. Many people refer to miter saws and chop saws interchangeably, because both saws use an overhead cutting process. The main difference between a chop saw and miter saw is in the flexibility of cuts that each saw can make.
While you may think that you are limited in some capacity with a chop saw, it actually becomes quite handy as you are always set up to make the same, 90 degree cut. Plus, it is a good beginner saw because you only have to worry about one angle of cut and fewer mistakes will be made as a result.
Before you can begin cutting with your chop saw, you need to find a blade for your specific project. When picking a chop saw blade, you need to consider:
For example, you would need a different blade rating for cutting metal than you would for cutting wood. Using the wrong blade type will cause dulling quickly and prevent you from getting a perfect cut with your chop saw. Sometimes, the wrong blade will make it so that you can’t even cut your material.
Related: The Guide to Band Saw Blades
Once you have determined what blade you need, it needs to be placed on the head of your chop saw carefully and securely. Follow the directions that were provided by the manufacturer of your saw.
Because the blade is exposed in a chop saw, you need to take extra precautions to remain safe and free of injury when using it. Always wear safety glasses and dust masks in case of kickbacks and splinters. This will also protect your eyes and your lungs from the sawdust that is created as you cut.
You also want to make sure you are not wearing loose clothing that could get caught in the blade of the chop saw. Secure your clothing so there is nothing hanging that could get cause injury.
As you move the spinning blade downward to cut, you also need to keep fingers and hands out of the way of the blade. Pay attention to cords, or anything else that might work its way into the cutting path of the blade.
Work slowly, and don’t get ahead of yourself. The beauty of the chop saw can also cause it to be more dangerous: using a chop saw is highly efficient and fast, which can create complacency and lead to dangerous mistakes.
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Once you’ve ensured you’re using the correct blade, and you have the proper safety precautions, you’re ready to measure your material and prepare the chop saw for cutting. Proper preparation will help ensure you make accurate cuts and don’t have to redo any of your work.
Before you start cutting, you need to prep your material that you want to cut. There are two steps you need to take: measuring the length and marking for the cut.
When done, you should have a straight line running across your material. You will be cutting using the chop saw along this line.
To ensure you cut on the mark that you have set for your material, you need to use the chop saw fences. These fences are there to create a guide for the blade and to secure your material in place.
As you adjust the angle of cut, you’ll notice the blade and base rotate into position to the make the angle cut. Check that you have dialed in the correct angle of cut by slowly moving the chop saw blade down onto your marking without the blade operating. This will show you where the line of cut will occur. The chop saw blade should line up exactly with the marks you made on the surface of your material to be cut.
If your blade is not perfectly on the marks, adjust the setting until you dial in your cut line properly. Check the alignment again by pulling your chop saw blade manually down on the mark. Continue this process until you have achieved the precise alignment you need to make the cut with your chop saw.
Once you’ve ensured you’re using the correct blade, and you have the proper safety precautions, you can start using your chop saw. Cutting with a chop saw is very easy, which is why we highly recommend it as a beginner woodworking saw.
If you see signs of a jagged or rough cut, this is an indication that you might need a new chop saw blade. Replace the blade and try your cut again.
Understanding how to use a chop saw doesn’t have to be difficult if you follow these steps as you work. Each time that you use your chop saw, you will feel more comfortable and be able to get those accurate right angle cuts with ease.
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